If you want to speak English, sing!
Singing has a wonderful effect on our breathing. It forces us to control our breath, even if we do this subconsciously. This in turn has a calming effect, which gives us confidence. Just what you need when you’re trying to speak English! The more we sing, the more natural it becomes for us to breathe deeply and sustain each breath so that the quality of our voice improves. We sound better. This is true of the spoken voice, not just that of opera singers. Think about the actors who impress you, not only because of their looks or acting ability, but because their voice sounds beautiful or compelling to you. The better your voice sounds when you speak English, the more reason you have to feel confident and relaxed. What a bonus!
Most people who want to improve their English say that pronunciation is the biggest problem. Of course, teachers of English will say that this is not a problem, it’s an opportunity. English is a rich language. Puns and seemingly complex pronunciation are half the fun of it! After all, Shakespeare used it to write bawdy comedies, powerful tragedies and convoluted political histories.
But this article isn’t about the theatre, it’s about using melody, harmonies and sheer enjoyment to help you let yourself go and pronounce words or phrases correctly without even thinking about rules. Intonation will come naturally. Whether you like rap or reggae, Ariana Grande or Adele, singing allows you to combine regular listening with the frequent repetition necessary to achieve true fluency. No matter where you sing, in the shower or in a choir, you’ll find yourself losing your inhibitions and just getting it right, time after time. If you can find a singing group to join, so much the better. You’ll receive guidance with pronunciation, and shared activities often make it easier to relax and forget yourself.
If you find it difficult to understand lyrics when you hear them, try reading them then listening again, with and without the words in front of you. You’ll soon notice that your vocabulary is improving. Many of my “beginners” get excited when they learn a new English word and realise they’ve already met it in a song. This is why so many English learners are “false beginners”. They’ve been listening to British and American music all their lives and subconsciously absorbing both vocabulary and the correct way to pronounce certain words.
What’s more, you’ll start using the structures you’ve picked up from those song lyrics. Before you know it, you’ll be including them in everyday conversation. “Don’t let me down”, “Let it go”… you get the idea. The easiest and most enjoyable way of mastering grammar rules is to sing!
Nothing is more British than a James Bond film, wouldn’t you agree? It is a Welsh singer, Shirley Bassey, who holds the record for performing not one, not two, but three Bond theme songs. Now that’s a lady with no inhibitions. Sing along with her or listen to her wonderful speaking voice and your English will begin to flow.
To learn more about the connections between speaking and singing, read Music and Languages.